As we surge deeper into the twenty-first century, through the second term of the first black president of the United States, toward the widely-imagined and deeply-desired post-identity landscape of America, many things remain out of focus. We may find ourselves struggling to identify markers of true social progress, even as the Obama administration challenges the Supreme Court on gay marriage. This struggle is particularly heartfelt in the contemporary art world where artists working on the margins—race, gender, sexual—continue to struggle for equitable representation not only in major museum and gallery exhibitions, but also in arts writing which accompanies such artistic production, from the erudite to the casual and culturally savvy.
Evidentiary of our contemporary struggle to maintain the mold-breaking inclusive standards in curatorial practice, as modeled by the 1993 Whitney Biennial, are recent events like MoMA’s exhibition Inventing Abstraction: 1910–1925, which in title and in concept erases from art history non-Western cultures whose artistic production in abstraction and other “Modernist” forms happened centuries before the European cultural imperialism of Picasso. Recently, and in a similar respect, the most notable evidence in criticism is New York Times art critic Ken Johnson’s troubling review of MoMA PS1’s mounting of Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980. Further engendering the discussion on artists’ sociopolitical location in contemporary art and cultural production, the core argument of Johnson’s review attempts, through racial essentialism and Eurocentric posturing, to explain why black artists have been infrequently regarded by the effectively white world of fine arts.
In the weeks following, a major debate ensued across the contemporary art world, haranguing Johnson for his questionable interpretation of the exhibition’s concept, the artists and works on view, the history of Modernism, and the history of the Western world when it comes to cultural production and members of the African diaspora. However, what became more apparent is a much larger issue articulated twenty years ago by art historian Maurice Berger. As he states in his introductory catalogue essay produced for The Theater of Refusal: “Despite the supposed vigilance of a media-oriented culture…the vast majority of American and European cultural commentators remain blissfully ignorant of the duplicitousness of visual representation…there is no guarantee that theoretical critics, who are themselves often lacking in the self-awareness that might allow them to see their own racism, will avert their eyes from what they would rather not see” (“To Meet the White Man’s Eyes,” The Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Mainstream Criticism. [Irvine: University of California Press], 1993, p. 10).
The editors of Critical Riot seek papers between five (5) and twenty (20) pages in length that:
- Address the concerns raised by NYT art critic, Ken Johnson’s, review of Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960–1980, particularly the claims made about assemblage art, the Modernist tradition, and black artists role in the development or as members of the Modernist tradition and the avant-garde
- Re-examine issues of artists careers, artistic legacies, art history, and the construction of each by the art press
- Foreground issues of critical discourse in relationship to the cultural margins and art historical representation, including but not limited to the exhibitions mentioned above
Submissions may include scholarly essays, personal responses, poetry, interviews, and transcripts from roundtable/panel discussions. Submissions may have been previously published, but they must be submitted by the original author(s) who MUST hold copyright of or have permission to reprint the text. For any submissions containing photographs or other images, the AUTHOR IS RESPONSIBLE for securing the rights to publish the images used in/with text; however, as a general guideline, the editors prefer images that fall under the Creative Commons license or otherwise are in the public domain.
- 300–500 word abstract (for completed papers) or proposal (for new works), saved as a PDF
- CV of no more than three (3) pages, saved as PDF
- PDFs of or links to one (1) brief writing sample (does not need to have been previously published), no more than 1500 words
Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 8, 2013.
- May 8, 2013 Proposal submission deadline
- July 1, 2013 (expected) Initial decisions sent to authors
- September 1, 2013 (expected) Completed/revised submissions deadline
- September 30, 2013 (expected) Final revisions sent to authors
- November 1, 2013 (expected) Publish date